Hotel Needham

572-576 Essex Street, Lawrence

Hotel Needham, undated postcard. Courtesy of the Lawrence History Center.

In the early hours of May 6, 1919, in the midst of a major strike by textile workers in Lawrence, a group of 15-20 masked men raided Hotel Needham. The hotel was known as a place where out-of-town supporters of the strike stayed. And it was such supporters who were the targets of the right-wing vigilantes who raided the hotel.

The armed men found two Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America organizers—Anthony Capraro and Nathan Kleinman—dragging them out of their hotel rooms and forcing them into cars outside the hotel. The kidnappers left Kleinman outside of Lowell, warning him to stay away from Lawrence and threatening him with death if he returned. Capraro received more violent treatment: at the hotel, kidnappers beat him with blackjacks; they beat him further in the rural outskirts of Andover until allowing him to flee.

The kidnapping took place at a time of heightened tensions surrounding the strike, which began on February 3, 1919. Just days prior to the raid on the Hotel Needham, police in Lawrence deployed a truck-mounted machine gun and patrolled the city’s streets armed with rifles.

Despite such repressive measures, the strike, which involved around 20,000 of Lawrence’s 30,000-35,000 workers, continued. And despite the threats, Kleinman promptly returned to Lawrence to resume his work. Capraro eventually did so as well after recuperating from his injuries. More broadly, the violence seems to have only strengthened the resolve of the strikers and their supporters to continue their struggle. Two weeks after the kidnapping, the strike ended (on May 20), the mill owners having accepted most of the workers’ demands. Key among them was a 48-hour workweek, with the maintenance of the same pay offered at the then-current 54 hours.

Hotel Needham first opened in June 1909. According to a description published in the Lawrence Souvenir while the hotel was in operation, it was “metropolitan in service, modern in every particular and carefully conducted by an experienced hotel man.” The establishment was also, the description gushed, “up-to-date in every respect, having every feature of the best hotels in New England including 51 light and airy rooms with hot and cold running water in every room, finely furnished baths and suites, steam heat, electric and gas lights, a rathskeller and excellent cuisine, private [dining] rooms and elevator service.”

It appears that Hotel Needham ceased to exist, for unknown reasons, shortly after the strike ended. Later in 1919, the building was known as the Hotel Lawrence. And in 1922, it was the Hotel Bristol.

The building first known as Hotel Needham still stands. Today it houses a business on the first floor and residential apartments on the five floors above.

The former Hotel Needham, circa 2023.

Getting there:

From the MBTA Commuter Rail Station in Lawrence, a one-mile (20-minute) walk.

To learn more:

Dexter Arnold, Dexter. ‘“A Row of Bricks”: Worker Activism in the Merrimack Valley Textile Industry, 1912-1922, PhD dissertation, Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1985.

Anthony Capraro, “How the Lawrence Ku-Klux Gang Taught Me American Democracy,” New York Call, May 27, 1919.

Jennifer Guglielmo, Living the Revolution: Italian Women’s Resistance and Radicalism in New York City, 1880-1945, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.


Thanks to Dexter Arnold for his assistance. Thanks as well to Kathy Flynn and Amita Kiley of the Lawrence History Center, and to Jim Beauchesne.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *